Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Church bars severely autistic boy from mass

Church bars severely autistic boy from mass

The Rev. Daniel Walz, disturbed by what he said is Adam's dangerous behavior, filed court papers to bar him from the Church of St. Joseph with a temporary restraining order against his parents.

And here is a good example of something I hope to address at least in part this week at The Elisha Foundation Retreat in Oregon - how does the church become an inclusive community, while taking everyone into consideration.

If you read the whole article carefully, you will see it is not an easy solution.

I am pretty sure a restraining order is not a good idea though!


  1. Certain this is a difficult situation. At least part of the problem is who to believe. Is the priest making too big an issue of things, or is the mother minimizing the behavior of her child? I cannot answer that question, but I have to agree with you, a restraining order is not the answer in any way.

    We face some similar concerns when a woman came to the church I serve with her 40 something son who suffered from brain damage due to a car accident. He had acted up in other local congregations to the point where they implied she should not bring him. She started worshiping with us, and brought him. He was great, and even when there were issues they were very small. They continued to come for 3 years or so until she moved away. Through that time there was not one incident that was a problem which made me think that perhaps the issue in other churches had less to do with his actual actions and more to do with their discomfort with someone doing that thinking he could control himself.

    I hope you can post your talk on this once you have delivered it.

  2. I would welcome advice on how to handle a situation like this so that it doesn't get out of hand. Especially helping those who might be frightened by something they don't understand because of lack of experience.

  3. When I read the article it drew my mind back to a church that I attended off and on before I married. This church wanted to be deliberate about welcoming a more diverse group into their services. I talked with the pastor about one person who wandered during the service. Found out he'd been doing so for about 6 months. Parents had come and said, we want to find a place that will let us worship but this is what our child is like. Non-harmful, but a wanderer. Pastor first talked with other church leadership, then to the congregation with and without parents there, to discuss who to's and what if's. They said, he's not harmful, let's let him wander.

    it was a more relaxed type of worship service with the potential to be very loud so I didn't go often (sorry, too much noise is just too much noise in my ears). :)

    For the most part I think one should talk with the parents, find out the child's needs. If the child merely wanders then let him wander as long as he's not being noisy about it all. If the child/person needs to leave church first, to avoid a mad rush out the door through potentially unstable people....well then, why can't the pastor as he leaves the church, pick up that person on the way out?

    I read this article and I thought there was fault on both sides. The young man...13 years old should not have been able to grab a young lady to have her sit on him as a calming measure. Shouldn't have happened. But that the same time it seemed that the parents were willing to sit in a quiet out room to avoid being disruptive.

    And the facts are that this child is 13 years old, I know from working in special needs that for boys...that's a hard age (13-16) with special needs. They are bigger, stronger, hormones are being weird, they are unpredictable and yes, at times dangerous, and because they are unpredictable people are easily alarmed by their behaviours.

    But churches should be more willing to work with families and individuals to see what will work. We really should be.